donuts

Summer is finally upon us. Not sure what to do? Believe me, there is so much out there! If you need a little help, look no further. Here are some ideas of things to do this summer in the Chicago suburbs. The hard part this year will be deciding how to fit in all the fun! So what are you waiting for – get out and start enjoying the summer!

I’ll be continually adding items so bookmark this page.

Summer Bucket List in Chicago Suburbs

Summer bucket list: More than 50 ideas to have a safe and fun summer in and around Chicago's suburbs

  • Pick your very own luscious strawberries from the vine. We had a fun time at Heider’s Berry Farm a few years back.  For a laid back experience, Cody’s Farm is one not to miss. One of our favorite places, Stade’s, will also have strawberry picking this year. Check out our adventure a couple years back. (McHenry). This year we stopped by Sun Berry Orchard for a simple strawberry picking experience. Last year, we had fun strawberry picking at Tom’s Farm Market. (Huntley) Here’s a roundup of our favorite strawberry picking spots.
  • Grow a caterpillar or frog or ladybug! Both kids and adults will be fascinated with “growing” their own butterfly.
  • Find a new favorite ice cream place. Try Julie Ann’s Custard (Crystal Lake) or Rusty’s Malt Shop (Richmond) or Milk House Ice Cream (Pingree Grove) or Cary Dairy (Cary).
  • Celebrate National Donut Day on June 7th and grab donuts from a new spotWant to try something different? How about ube donuts at Gurnee Donuts? Psst. They are only made on the weekends. Make it even more fun with a self-guided donut crawl!
  • Tie dye anything is super trendy right now. Why not commemorate this summer with your own tie dye t-shirt or socks or a hat? Here’s a fun take on a Fourth of July tie dye shirt. We made our own last summer through our library and had a blast!
  • Blow bubbles or make your own bubbles. Here’s a quick recipe: 4 cups warm water, 1/2 cup dish soap, 1/2 cup sugar. Mix sugar and water and stir sugar until it dissolves. Add dish soap and stir. If you have the patience, let it sit for a few hours.
  • Have a Dole Whip battle. Disney has released their official Dole Whip recipe and so has Holiday World (one of our fav amusement parks in the Midwest.) Try both and see which one the family likes better. Don’t want to make it? Head to Cary Dairy where they have Dole Whip waiting for you!
  • Walk through a bog. What’s a bog? Learn all about it at the Volo Bog nature center then walk through yourself. While you there head to their unstructured nature play space. (Volo)
  • Roar! Say hi to the dinosaurs at Dinosaur Gardens at Volo Auto Museum. Don’t forget mini golf, too! While you’re here, you need to see all the cool cars! (Volo)
  • Still looking for dinosaurs? Kuipers Farm (love their tulip fest!) also has a Dino Farm Adventure until June 16. Perfect for the dino lover! (Maple Park)
  • Hike at a state park. A couple of our favorites in Illinois include Matthiessen State Park and Starved Rock.
  • Visit a zoo AND an amusement park AND water park! Santa’s Village Azoosment is the best of ALL worlds! (East Dundee)
  • Rainy day? No worries. Play retro arcade games at Underground Retrocade. (West Dundee)
  • Tee up at these fun mini golf spots. Some include Lippold Family Golf Center (Crystal Lake) or River View Miniature Golf (St. Charles) or Tinley Junction (Tinley Park).
  • Go on a playground crawl to find the best new playground.  Our goal this summer is to visit at least 20 new to us or newly renovated playgrounds. Some favorites include Deicke Park, South Ridge Park, Commissioner’s Park in Streamwood, Burning Bush in Mt. Prospect.
  • Taste delicious gourmet popcorn at Mama Lee’s Gourmet Popcorn. (Elgin, West Dundee)
  • Read, read, and read. Join your local library’s reading program. Stop into Barnes and Nobles for their “Escape Into Summer Reading” program. Just read 8 books, fill out the log, then return it anytime in between July 1st and August 31, 2024. In return, pick out a free book!
  • Bike the Fox River Bike Trail and explore many of the family-friendly stops like Van’s Frozen Custard and Burger, Downtown Elgin, Gail Borden Public Library, playgrounds, and more!
  • Farmers Markets are happening again this summer. Time to go pick fresh produce at a farmer’s market. One of our favorites is Woodstock Farmer’s Market on the historic square. They have storytime on Saturdays. The Farmers Market + at the Dole Mansion is a great one too!
  • Find the “secret” waterfall in South Elgin.
  • Splash around at Raging Waves. (Yorkville)
  • Go on a wild goose chase! Well, with the Goosechase app you can complete missions. The McHenry County Conservation District has a fun “Find Your Wild” scavenger hunt that includes libraries too!
  • Have you tried geocaching? We’ll definitely be outside more this summer and we’d like to try this. Sounds fun! Here are great tips from Travel Inspired Living. Coincide geocaching with MCCD’s (see above) Find Your Wild mission for extra fun!
  • Sip on bubble tea! Some of our favorite spots include Umbrella Tea House (Schaumburg), Cloud Tea (South Elgin), Tours de Jour (Schaumburg)
  • Try a new sport. How about disc golf? Besides a disc, it’s totally free! Try it at Fel-Pro RRR (Cary) or Lippold Park (Crystal Lake) or Randall Oaks Park (West Dundee)
  • Find your favorite sculpture at International Sculpture Park (Schaumburg), Mount St. Mary’s Sculpture Park (St. Charles), or Nathan Manilow Park.
  • Spend half a day explore Randall Oaks Park where they have a zoo, a playground, and a “hidden playground.” (West Dundee) Make sure to pack a picnic!
  • Become an Outdoor Explorer! Sign up through McHenry County Conservation District and receive a booklet of fun ideas for the outdoors. Complete 10 of the pages and receive a prize!
  • See elk at Busse Woods. Review here(Elk Grove Village)
  • Batter up! Minor league baseball games are so much fun and some even offer playgrounds for the kids. We love going to the Chicago Dogs games.
  • Go on a unique animal encounter. How about goat yoga or a chance to walk goats? Or meet and feed alpacas? Here are more animal encounters for you to try.
  • Go fish! Catch and release fishing is available at Twin Lakes. Rent a boat for more fun! (Palatine)
  • Try foods from a different culture. For Filipino food, try Pinoy Street Grill (Arlington Heights). Asian food at Roll n Donuts Cafe never disappoints. (Algonquin)
  • Get lost in a sunflower maze. We had an absolutely amazing time at Von Bergen’s, Goebbert’s, and Richardson’s Adventure Farm.

Here is your ultimate 2021 Chicago Area Summer Bucket List. Find things to do, places to eat, and fun activities to keep the kids busy.

  • Take a hike and see horses? Yes, please. Hike at Danada then hit up the Sensory Garden in Lisle for a fun horse-themed trip.
  • Check out a book and an exhibit at Gail Borden Library. We always look forward to their new museum quality exhibits. The last few years they had Wizard of Oz and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This year they have Storyland: A trip Through Childhood Exhibits. They highlight three children’s books: The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Snowy Day, and Where’s Spot? (Elgin)
  • Spend an affordable day out enjoying Lords Park with an updated playground (free), the Elgin Public Museum ($2/pp), and a small zoo (free). (Elgin) Read all about the fun here.
  • Have a play date at Peppa Pig World of Play. (Schaumburg)
  • Go on a tour at Hephzibah Farms. Trust me you’ll fall in love with the animals. $10 per person spent. Read all about our experience here. 
  • Enjoy a movie on the cheap at a historic theater. Classic Cinemas in Woodstock is our go-to theater and offers $2 kids movies on Wednesday mornings. The theater was built in 1927 and has undergone quite a few renovations to make it what it is today. If you’re lucky enough to catch a flick in the main auditorium, it’s beautiful. Psst. Free refills on popcorn, drinks, and ICEEs. Afterwards, go on a Groundhog Day walking tour or have a picnic at the park.
  • Strike! Kids can bowl for FREE at participating locations.
  • Hit up a family-friendly brewery. Some of our favorites includes Holzlager Brewery (Woodstock), Crystal Lake Brewery (Crystal Lake), Hailstorm Brewery (Tinley Park), Sew Hop’d (Huntley). If you’re up for a challenge, go on the McHenry County Craft Beverage Trail.
  • Follow the orange truck, or any of your favorite food trucks. I’ve had my eye on Stix and Noodles serving Filipino street food as they frequent some of my favorite breweries. Waffadilla is another one of my new fav food trucks – waffles meet quesadillas!
  • Love nature play spaces? Make sure to add the newest Kuechmann Kove to your list! (Lake Zurich)
  • Go camping! Jellystone Yogi Bear in Amboy was one of our favorite experiences a few years ago!
  • Listen to a story in a different setting. Many libraries offer story time off-site. For instance, Elder + Oat (West Dundee) has story time during the summer. Lords Park (Elgin) hosts a couple story times as well. How fun!
  • Embrace the calm at Soder World Wellness Center where they have an amazing garden with swans, a rock garden, and more.
  • Love cars? Check out all the cool cars at a cruise night event. You’ll find me at Cruise Night in Cary on Wednesdays!
  • Explore a new town. Elmhurst is the place to be this summer. From the cool art installation Umbrella Sky to a fun playground at Wilder Park and an awesome library, you can easily spend the day here.
  • Moms (and dads) can have fun too. Challenge yourself to the McHenry County Coffee and Tea trail and bring the kids along!
  • Summer means festival season! Visit a festival that you’ve never attended. Had a fun time at Harvard Milk Days! (June)
  • Take a day trip to Rockford! Fridays are meant for families at Rockford’s Discovery Center Museum. Every Friday until August 2, the museum goes all out with a theme. These extra activities are included with admission! Check out our last year’s fun theme, Pixel Playground.
  • See a real viking ship! On June 16th, Good Templar Park and its cute tiny cottages are open to the public for Swedish Days, their 100th anniversary. While here, you can peruse the beautiful grounds, look at stugas (cute tiny cottages) and see a viking ship that travelled abroad to be here! Take the tour – you’ll learn a lot!
  • Celebrate National Mascot Day (June 17) with a visit to Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Indiana. Such a fun day trip that includes a beach, cute downtown, and ice cream, of course.